With second year head coach Mike McCarthy at the helm the Green Bay Packers found themselves well ahead of expectations to start the 2007 season. After winning the final four games of 2006 to finish 8-8, the Packers started 2007 5-1 and headed to Denver fresh off a bye week for a Monday night showdown against the 3-3 Broncos. The Packers had never won in Denver and Invesco Field at Mile High was known for having a loud, ruckus like atmosphere and a record attendance of 77,160 on this October night were sure to make the green and gold feel uncomfortable.
The offenses for both teams featured gun slinging quarterbacks one in the form of 23-year-old second year quarterback Jay Cutler and the other a 38-year-old, future Hall of Famer in Brett Favre. After the teams traded punts to start the game, Cutler was the first to strike. After the Broncos defense forced a three and out possession for Green Bay, Denver started with the ball at their own 40-yard line. With a lackluster run game, the Broncos relied on Cutler’s arm and he responded going 5/6 on the drive for 47 yards and capped it off with a short five-yard touchdown toss to tight end Tony Scheffler to give Denver an early 7-0 lead. It took only one play for Favre to answer, just a mere 23 seconds after the Broncos 10 play drive. Favre lined up with the offense on their own 21-yard line with rookie receiver James Jones spread out right. At the snap, Jones was able to sprint past all-pro cornerback Champ Bailey and haul in Favre’s pass at the 45 yard line, Jones then cut across the field to take it to the end zone and bring the game back to even.
Starting from the Denver 28-yard line, Cutler quickly guided the Broncos right back down the field on seven plays, and with the Broncos knocking down the door at the Green Bay one-yard line, Cutler made the first mistake of the night. Attempting to plow the ball in from the one-yard line, Cutler fumbled, and Packers’ linebacker Nick Barnett came out of the pile with the ball to begin the second quarter. A quick pass to tight end Donald Lee picked up 14 yards and got the Packers’ moving and running back Ryan Grant helped ignite the Green Bay rushing attack. On the drive Grant had seven rushes for 53 yards, with a few Favre passes sprinkled in the Packers moved the ball down to the Denver one line, but on fourth and goal from the one, McCarthy called on rookie kicker Mason Crosby to pull the Packers’ ahead with a 19-yard field goal and the Packers took their first lead of the night 10-7.
The Packers’ defense finally figured out Cutler on Denver’s fourth possession and forced the Broncos to punt after three plays, thanks in part to a blanket coverage by cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Nick Collins who forced incompletions. Woodson would return the punt of Broncos punter Todd Sauerbraun eight yards to the Green Bay 41-yard line. The Packers’ would then rely on the legs on Grant again by running on five consecutive plays to start the drive to bring the ball to the Denver 36-yard line. Two plays later, following the two-minute warning, Favre connected with receiver Greg Jennings for a 20-yard gain to keep the drive alive bring the ball inside the red zone. On a nine yard check down reception by running back Vernand Morency, the Broncos were flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty bringing the ball down the three-yard line. However, instead of padding the lead, false start penalties on guard Tony Moll and tackle Chad Clifton killed the drive and the Packers’ settled for another Crosby field goal. After another quick three and out forced by the Packers’ defense, thanks in part to a sack by defensive end Aaron Kampman, and the Packers received the punt and ran out the clock to head into the locker room up 13-7.
The Packers took the second half kickoff but were only able to advance the ball up to the their own 43-yard line before punter Jon Ryan boomed a kick into the end zone for a touchback. Broncos head coach Mike Shannan dialed up an array of pass plays on their first drive of the half. On the 13-play march, Cutler attempted nine passes, completing seven, as the Broncos drove down to the Green Bay 20. On third and 14, Cutler was again sacked by Kampman and the Broncos called on 14-year veteran kicker Jason Elam, who successfully converted a 45-yard field goal to cut Green Bay’s lead to three.
The next three possessions, were dogfights with the teams exchanging punts, before the Packers’ punted the ball back to Denver, up three with 2:27 remaining. Cutler had a chance to take down an NFL icon, but had 89-yards to go with two timeouts and the two-minute warning to work with. A 17-yard pass interference call against safety Atari Bigby got things going for Denver. Four plays later, on fourth down and two, Cutler hit receiver Brandon Stokely for seven yards and a first down at the 39-yard line. On back to back plays Cutler linked up with receiver Brandon Marshall for gains of 35 and 13 to move to ball down to the Green Bay 13-yard line. After a nine-yard run up the middle by running back Selvin Young brought the ball to the four-yard line and the Broncos used up their third and final timeout. After an incomplete pass to Marshall, the clock read 22 seconds remaining and it was 3rd and one. Cutler, then did what no one expected, he attempted a quarterback draw to win the game, but defensive stalwart Ryan Pickett stopped Cutler for no gain on the play. With the clock running and Denver with no time outs remaining Elam and the kicking unit ran onto the field and were converted a field goal to tie the game on the final play of the quarter as the clock ran down to zero.
Overtime had not treated the Packers’ kindly on the road, as the team hadn’t won a road overtime contest since December 12, 1983. To begin overtime, Jennings called heads at the coin flip and the coin fell heads up and the Packers were set to receive the ball first in the sudden death period. After return man Shaun Bodiford brought the ball up to the 18-yard line for Favre and the offense to start. What happened next, was another chapter in the legendary career of the 38-yard gunslinger. On the first play from scrimmage, with the Denver crowd shaking the stadium and stomping their metal covered stands, Favre play actioned to Grant, dropped back and heaved a deep ball down the left side to a sprinting Jennings who burst by cornerback Dre Bly, caught the ball in stride at the Denver 40-yard line and took it the rest of the way for the game ending touchdown. Packers win 19-13, and the Packers’ ran down the field to mob Jennings in the back of the end zone, while Favre jumped up and down with the exuberance and passion he displayed throughout this career.